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People v. Williams

June 30, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Thomas A. Hett and Honorable Bertina E. Lampkin, Judges Presiding.

Jonathan Beard, Nazareth Beard, Lewis Taylor and Rasheed Williams were charged with first degree murder and home invasion involving Sammie Britton (decedent) arising from an incident on December 27, 1994. The court granted defendants' motions to sever their trials and Jonathan, Nazareth and Taylor were tried simultaneously by three separate juries. Williams was tried in a separate proceeding. Nazareth and Jonathan Beard filed motions to quash their arrests which were granted. They also filed motions to suppress their statements as fruit of their illegal arrests which were subsequently denied. The court determined that their incriminating statements were attenuated by events following their illegal arrests. Nazareth and Jonathan Beard were convicted of first degree murder and home invasion after a jury trial and were both sentenced to terms of imprisonment of 28 and 12 years, respectively, to run concurrently.

Taylor also brought a motion to quash his arrest which was denied. The court determined that the officers had probable cause to arrest him and exigent circumstances to enter his home and arrest him without a warrant. His motion to suppress his statement was also denied since the court determined his statement was voluntary. Taylor was convicted of home invasion and felony murder based on home invasion, and he was sentenced to 12 and 20 years, respectively, to run concurrently.

Williams also brought a pretrial motion to quash his arrest based on a lack of probable cause at the time the arrest was effectuated. His arrest was subsequently quashed. His motion to suppress his statement made while in custody was denied. The court determined that Williams' statement was attenuated from his illegal arrest. Williams was convicted of home invasion and first degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment.

Jonathan, Nazareth, Taylor and Williams now bring this appeal. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and vacate in part. Due, however, to the page limitations imposed on our published opinions by Supreme Court Rule 23 (166 Ill. 2d R. 23) the only portion of our analysis that will be published relates to Taylor's argument that the trial court improperly refused instructions and verdict forms on involuntary manslaughter and second degree murder after the prosecution improperly nol-prossed the two counts of murder other than felony murder. [Nonpublishable material removed under Supreme Court Rule 23] Attenuation Hearing

Detective McDermott of the Chicago Police Department testified Taylor was brought to Area 2 after midnight on January 17, 1995. Taylor had recently turned 19. McDermott and his partner, Detective Boylan talked with Taylor for 15 to 20 minutes between 12:30 and 1 a.m. McDermott testified the detectives read Taylor his Miranda rights and did not make any threats or promises.

An assistant State's Attorney took Taylor's statement at about 10:15 a.m. on January 17, 1995. In his statement, Taylor said he was "hanging around" with Meko McBounds, Nazareth, Jonathan, Quanario Renee and Rasheed Williams on December 27, 1994, but later broke off from the group and went to talk to a girl who lived next door to decedent. He heard shuffling noises coming from decedent's apartment and when he went next door, he saw Williams and Jonathan punching decedent. He stated that decedent broke away and tried to run, but bumped into him at the door and grabbed his coat. Taylor stated he became angry and pushed decedent into the television. He stated that he hit decedent with a BB gun he had brought with him. When decedent fell, Taylor and the others surrounded him and kicked him repeatedly.

After noting that defendants lacked standing to object to any conduct regarding Renee, the trial court held that Renee's statement implicating the other five boys gave the detectives probable cause to detain and question each of the other defendants. Therefore, the trial court ruled that the State had met its burden and could introduce the statements of Nazareth and Jonathan at trial because their illegal arrests were attenuated by intervening events. Taylor's motion to suppress his statement was also denied. The trial court held that the police had probable cause for his arrest from statements given by the other defendants, who all stated Taylor participated in the beating of decedent. The court stated in its written order, "the only credible evidence I heard says that this 19 year old adult knowingly and intelligently waived his rights after having been given full Miranda warnings. There is no credible evidence to suggest that the statement was the product of any threat, any promise, or any untoward action by authorities."

The court also ruled that Williams' confession was admissible because the taint of the initial illegal arrest had been dissipated. In reaching that decision, the court found that the police had probable cause to arrest defendant before he gave his statement and cited as intervening circumstances the arrival of his mother at the station and the advisement of the voluntary statements of Williams' co-defendants.

After Judge Hett heard the pretrial motions, the matter was thereafter transferred to Judge Lampkin who presided simultaneously over three juries in the severed case involving Jonathan, Nazareth and Taylor. Judge Hett continued to preside over Williams' trial. The Trial

The following evidence was adduced at trial. Eddie Jean Bryant, the decedent's sister, testified that her brother was 51 and in good health. On the day of the assault, decedent was living in an apartment at 13096 S. Drexel in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood in Chicago. She said he had lived in Altgeld Gardens all his life. Bryant testified that her brother was hospitalized from December 27, 1994, to January 12, 1995, when he passed away due to complications from pneumonia. She stated that, following her brother's death, she went to his apartment and found that all the decedent's chairs had been slashed.

Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) police officer Stanley Grice testified that on December 17, 1994, decedent came into the Altgeld Gardens police station and reported that some teenagers had taken over his apartment and were denying him access. Grice investigated and saw teenagers running out of the apartment. He managed to arrest Quanario Renee as he left the apartment. Decedent signed a complaint against Renee for criminal trespass to property.

James Fitzgibbon, a fire department paramedic, testified that he responded to a call on December 27, 1994, from the CHA field house at 901 E. 131st Street at 10:20 p.m. Fitzgibbon testified that he found decedent complaining of shortness of breath and sore ribs. Decedent said he had been beaten by several boys. Fitzgibbon took decedent to Roseland Hospital, arriving at 10:40 p.m.

Dr. J. Lawrence Cogan, a forensic pathologist of the medical examiner's office, testified that on December 27, 1994, decedent was admitted to the hospital complaining of sore left ribs and difficulty breathing. An X ray showed he had four fractured or broken ribs. He was further diagnosed with a collapsed left lung. Decedent's body temperature rose from 96.1 to 99.9 degrees from the time he was admitted to the hospital until he was sent to the ward. The amount of oxygen present in his blood was low. On December 29, 1994, a tube was inserted to reinflate the collapsed left lung. This process takes a few days during which the right lung does most of the work of aerating or oxygenating the blood.

Decedent later developed pneumonia in his right lung. On December 31, 1994, he appeared disoriented and restless and was treated with Haldol and restrained. On January 2, 1995, he experienced a blood pressure spike. On January 3, 1995, there was a significant shift in his white blood cell count. Later, tests showed his kidneys were beginning to shut down. On January 5, the chest tube was removed because the pneumothorax had cleared up. On January 6, 1995, decedent was dehydrated, and on January 9, 1995, he was transferred to intensive care. On January 10, he was resuscitated from cardiac arrest. He was on a mechanical ventilator when he died on January 12, 1995.

Dr. Cogan testified that on January 14, 1995, he reviewed medical records and police reports and completed an autopsy on decedent. The medical history indicated that decedent suffered from hypertension, asthma, chronic lung disease (emphysema), and chronic alcohol abuse. In September of 1994, decedent was hospitalized for a "spontaneous pneumothorax" or collapsed left lung for which he was treated and released. He was taking medication for a seizure disorder and hypertension at the time of his death. Dr. Cogan testified that decedent looked much older than his 51 years.

Dr. Cogan's autopsy revealed that decedent weighed 125 pounds and was 5 feet 11 ½ inches tall at the time of his death. Examination of the body revealed four healing rib fractures and discoloration on the outside of the rib cage that was consistent with decedent having been beaten or kicked. Examination of the cardiovascular system revealed severe narrowing and calcification of the arteries. Examination of decedent's skull revealed no head trauma. The decedent's lungs were a little heavy and firm, consistent with pneumonia. Dr. Cogan found that while the assault was not the immediate cause of death, "it set in [motion] a sequence of events which eventually led" to decedent's death.

Detective Andrew Abbott of the Chicago Police Department testified that on the morning of January 14, 1995, he and his partner, Detective Bruce Campbell, were assigned to investigate the death of decedent. On January 15, 1995, after learning that decedent had died in the hospital, they proceeded to decedent's apartment. Police obtained a key to the apartment from decedent's mother. Detective Abbott testified:

"[furniture] was tossed around and out of order. We found numerous gang slogans written all across the interior walls of that apartment, across the appliances, across the interior doors, and on the front exterior [door] of the apartment."

Detective Abbott contacted the mobile crime lab and requested assistance to process the scene.

Carl Brasic, a forensic investigator with the police crime lab, testified that he received his assignment on January 15, 1995. In processing the scene, Brasic and his partner examined the decedent's apartment and took numerous photographs. During his testimony, Brasic described the graffiti he photographed in decedent's apartment that had been inscribed on walls, doors, appliances, windows, and mirrors. He testified he saw graffiti and the nicknames "Cain," "Stacy," and "O'Dog" scrawled on a water pipe, the kitchen freezer, the bathroom mirror and the bedroom door. The State then introduced photographs of the decedent's apartment which included the nicknames and some gang graffiti. Brasic revealed that no identifiable fingerprints were found at the scene, nor were there any ...

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